2004 Regular Session
By: Representative Woods, Akins, Baker (8th), Beckett, Bondurant, Brown, Cummings, Davis, Fillingane, Formby, Frierson, Gadd, Hamilton (109th), Hamilton (6th), Horne, Howell, Markham, Masterson, Mayhall, McCoy, Moore, Moss, Nicholson, Peranich, Read, Robinson (84th), Rogers (14th), Rotenberry, Shows, Smith (39th), Staples, Vince, Weathersby, Guice, Fleming
AN ACT TO REQUIRE RAILROAD COMPANIES TO REMOVE VEGETATION WITHIN A CERTAIN DISTANCE OF HIGHWAY RAILROAD GRADE CROSSINGS; TO REQUIRE THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION TO PERIODICALLY INSPECT AND EVALUATE ALL PUBLIC HIGHWAY RAILROAD GRADE CROSSINGS TO DETERMINE IF THE RAILROAD COMPANY IS IN COMPLIANCE WITH THIS ACT AND TO NOTIFY RAILROAD COMPANIES OF ANY SUCH NONCOMPLIANCE; TO PROVIDE CIVIL FINES FOR RAILROAD COMPANIES THAT FAIL TO COMPLY WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ACT; TO PROVIDE THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION SHALL HAVE EXCLUSIVE AUTHORITY TO BRING A CIVIL ACTION TO ENFORCE THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ACT; TO AMEND SECTION 77-9-249, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CLARIFY THE SAFETY REQUIREMENTS FOR MOTORISTS TO FOLLOW WHEN APPROACHING A RAILROAD GRADE CROSSING; TO AMEND SECTIONS 63-3-1007, 63-3-1009, 63-3-1011 AND 63-3-1013, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CONFORM THE PROVISIONS PRESCRIBING THE CLOSEST DISTANCE THAT A VEHICLE IS REQUIRED TO STOP AT A RAILROAD GRADE CROSSING; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) At all public highway railroad grade crossings that do not have automatic flashing lights and/or
gates where vegetation would materially obstruct the view of a vehicle operator exercising reasonable care of a train approaching a grade crossing from either direction, every railroad, as is reasonably practical, shall remove from its right-of-way which it owns or operates, such vegetation as weeds, brush, climbing vines, shrubbery and trees, for a distance of not less than three hundred (300) feet in each direction from the centerline of the public road or highway, unless the authorized train speed is ten (10) miles per hour or less, in which case the distance from the centerline of the public road or highway shall be not less than one hundred (100) feet. At the outer edges of the public road or highway, the vegetation shall be removed to a width of twenty-five (25) feet on each side of the centerline of the railroad or to the full width of the railroad's operating right-of-way whichever is shorter. The area cleared of vegetation may be tapered inward from its full width at the involved roadway to the outer limits of the area being cleared so as to create a triangle, or it may be cleared at a constant width so as to form a rectangle.
(2) The violation of subsection (1) of this section shall not of itself be grounds for recovery, and the comparative negligence statute and the apportionment statute of this state shall apply in these cases as in other cases of negligence.
(3) This section does not change or modify the duties of the operator of a vehicle as set forth in Sections 77-9-249, 65-3-1007, 65-3-1009, 65-3-1011 or 65-3-1013, or the application of such sections.
(4) The Department of Transportation may periodically inspect and evaluate all public highway railroad grade crossings to determine whether such grade crossings are maintained in compliance with the provisions of this section. If the department determines that a particular grade crossing is not in compliance, the department shall notify the railroad company which owns or operates the right-of-way that a grade crossing is not in compliance with this section.
(5) Every notification to a railroad company, as authorized under the provisions of this section shall be in writing transmitted by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the person listed as the registered agent of the railroad company for service of process. Upon receipt of the notice, the railroad company shall have thirty (30) days to comply with the notice before any civil action may be taken by the Department of Transportation.
(6) Any railroad company that fails to comply with the provisions of this section shall be subject to a civil fine of not to exceed Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) per violation. The Department of Transportation shall have the exclusive authority to bring a civil action to enforce the provisions of this section. The fines shall be payable to the Department of Transportation.
(7) In any civil action to recover damages arising from or out of a highway railroad grade crossing accident, the failure of the Department of Transportation to inspect and evaluate a public highway railroad grade crossing and notify a railroad company of noncompliance, as provided in subsections (4) and (5) of this section, shall not be considered as comparative negligence and shall not be discoverable or admissible as evidence in any civil trial.
SECTION 2. Section 77-9-249, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
77-9-249. (1) Whenever any person driving a vehicle approaches a railroad grade crossing under any of the circumstances stated in this subsection, the driver of such vehicle shall stop within fifty (50) feet but not less than fifteen (15) feet from the nearest rail of such railroad, and shall not proceed until he can do so safely. The foregoing requirements shall apply when one or more of the following circumstances exists:
(a) A clearly visible electric or mechanical signal device gives warning of the immediate approach of a railroad train; or
(b) A crossing gate is lowered or when a human flagman gives or continues to give a signal of the approach or passage of a railroad train; or
(c) A railroad train approaching within approximately nine hundred (900) feet of the highway crossing emits a signal in accordance with Section 77-9-225, and such railroad train, by reason of its speed or nearness to such crossing, is an immediate hazard; or
(d) An approaching railroad train is plainly visible and is in hazardous proximity to such crossing.
(2) No person shall drive any vehicle through, around or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad crossing while such gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed.
(3) In the trial of all actions to recover personal injury or property damages, sustained by any driver of such vehicles for collision of said vehicle and train in which action it may appear that the said driver may have violated any of the provisions hereof, the question of whether or not the said violation was the sole or approximate cause of the accident and injury shall be for the jury to determine. The violation of this section shall not of itself defeat recovery, and the question of negligence or the violation aforesaid shall be left to the jury; and the comparative negligence statutes and prima facie statute of this state shall apply in these cases as in other cases of negligence.
(4) At any railroad grade crossing provided with visible railroad crossbuck signs without automatic electric or mechanical signal devices, crossing gates or a human flagman giving a signal of the approach or passage of a train, the driver of a vehicle shall, in obedience to such railroad crossbuck sign, yield the right-of-way and slow to a speed reasonable for the existing conditions, and shall stop if required for safety at a clearly marked stop line, or if no stop line, within fifty (50) feet, but not less than fifteen (15) feet, from the nearest rail of the railroad, and shall not proceed until he can do so safely.
(5) Every person, company or corporation violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00) nor more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), or imprisoned not more than thirty (30) days, or both such fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.
SECTION 3. Section 63-3-1007, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
63-3-1007. (1) Whenever any person driving a vehicle approaches a railroad grade crossing and a clearly visible electric or mechanical signal device gives warning of the immediate approach of a train, the driver of such vehicle shall stop within fifty (50) feet but not less than fifteen (15) feet from the nearest track of such railroad and shall not proceed until he can do so safely.
(2) The driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain standing and not traverse such a grade crossing when a crossing gate is lowered or when a human flagman gives or continues to give a signal of the approach or passage of a train. The violation of this section shall not of itself defeat recovery and the question of negligence or the violation aforesaid, shall be left to the jury and the comparative negligence statute and prima facie statute of this state shall apply in these cases as in other cases of negligence.
SECTION 4. Section 63-3-1009, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
63-3-1009. The Mississippi Transportation Commission is hereby authorized to designate particularly dangerous highway grade crossings of railroads and to erect stop signs thereat. When such stop signs are erected the driver of any vehicle shall stop within fifty (50) feet but not less than fifteen (15) feet from the nearest track of such grade crossing and shall proceed only upon exercise of due care.
SECTION 5. Section 63-3-1011, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
63-3-1011. (1) The driver of any motor vehicle carrying passengers for hire, or of any school bus carrying any school child, or of any vehicle carrying explosive substances of flammable liquids as a cargo or part of a cargo, before crossing at grade any track or tracks of a railroad, shall stop such vehicle within fifty (50) feet but not less than fifteen (15) feet from the nearest rail of such railroad and while so stopped shall listen and look in both directions along such track for any approaching train and for signals indicating the approach of a train, except as hereinafter provided, and shall not proceed until he can do so safely.
(2) No stop need be made at any such crossing where a police officer or a traffic control signal directs traffic to proceed.
(3) This section shall not apply at street railway grade crossings within a business or residence district.
SECTION 6. Section 63-3-1013, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
63-3-1013. No person shall operate or move any caterpillar tractor, steam shovel, derrick, roller, or any equipment or structure having a normal operating speed of six (6) or less miles per hour or a vertical body or load clearance of less than nine (9) inches above the level surface of a roadway upon or across any tracks at a railroad grade crossing without notice of any such intended crossing first being given to a superintendent of such railroad and a reasonable time being given to such railroad to provide proper protection at such crossing.
Before making any such crossing the person operating or moving any such vehicle or equipment shall first stop the same not less than fifteen (15) feet nor more than fifty (50) feet from the nearest rail of such railway and while so stopped shall listen and look in both directions along such track for any approaching train and for signals indicating the approach of a train, and shall not proceed until the crossing can be made safely.
No such crossing shall be made when warning is given by automatic signal or crossing gates or a flagman or otherwise of the immediate approach of a railroad train or car.
SECTION 7. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2004.